Performance artist Marina Abramovic was doing a live art show that involved her sitting in silence for 1 minute opposite complete strangers. Lots of people took part but one man in particular gave me goosebumps and when you watch the video you will understand why. I’ll let you watch the video and then I will explain a little more further below as I think you will appreciate the back story more once you see what happens in the video.
In 1976, Abramović met Ulay, a West German artist who would become her lover and collaborator for the next twelve years. The duo fell into an impersonal abyss, losing their selfhoods and attempting to become a single entity through arresting performances such asBreathing In/Breathing Out, where they locked mouths and breathed each other’s exhaled breath, eventually filling their lungs with carbon monoxide and falling unconscious. By 1988, their romance had run its course; in typically atypical fashion, the pair decided to part by walking from opposing ends of the Great Wall of China until they met in the middle, and then said goodbye.
On the opening night of Abramović’s retrospective in 2010, the erstwhile lovers were reunited. The video above shows Abramović, sitting and steeling herself for her next silent interlocutor. Ulay approaches, and Abramović, a veteran of such difficult performances, looks up to what may have been the single most unexpected sight of the night, jolting her dignified composure. Their reunion is a deeply tender scene.